Heroic Lowestoft fisherman who assisted stricken Navy ship is recognised

08:48 12 February 2014


A 'Gallantry Award' was presented to the Crisp family in recognition of their fathers (Skipper Victor Crisp) heroic act by saving the Captain and many of the crew of HMS Warwick after she was torpedoed on the 20th February 1944. local MP Peter Aldous along with local historian John Holmes and Mayor June Ford hand over the award.

©Archant 2014

The courage of a Lowestoft fisherman, who helped to save survivors from a sinking Royal Navy destroyer after it was torpedoed by a U-boat, has been recognised – nearly 70 years on from that fateful day.

The heroism of Victor Crisp was honoured during a special ceremony at Lowestoft Town Hall as family of the late Lowestoft skipper were presented with a gallantry award.

After a 20-year campaign to get Mr Crisp a gallantry medal, the Crisp family received a long-overdue recognition for his bravery in saving the lives of dozens of Royal Navy sailors,

On February 20, 1944 Mr Crisp was the skipper of the trawler Lady Luck when she steamed to the rescue of the stricken crew of HMS Warwick after the Royal Navy destroyer was struck by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat.

Lady Luck was off the Cornish coast of Padstow, with Mr Crisp looking through his binoculars, when he saw a “tremendous explosion from her stern” as HMS Warwick was hit by the torpedo.

With the U-boat still in the area, fuel oil spilling into the sea and only a crew of five aboard Lady Luck – including three men aged more than 60 – Mr Crisp fearlessly headed straight for the sinking vessel in the hope of picking up survivors.

Describing the dramatic rescue in his autobiography, Trawler Boy to Trawler Man, Mr Crisp recalled “approaching the scene of the catastrophe”. He said: “The fuel oil from the destroyer was covering the area. Men were calling for help, their plaintive cries could be heard... As we began to pull the men on board, I saw the terrible mess with which they were covered – thick, sticky oil. My crew, to a man, were helping the men into the galley or down into the cabin to get warmth to their bodies.”

Mr Crisp and his crew pulled so many people to safety that he forgot exactly how many they had saved, but the brave skipper confided in his autobiography it was more than 40.

Among those rescued that day was the commander of the HMS Warwick, Capt Denys Rayner.

In a personal testimony, featured in the gallantry award, Capt Rayner had said: “I owe my life solely to skipper Victor Crisp of the trawler Lady Luck.

“I pay most grateful thanks to him and tribute to his gallantry and seamanship when, on February 20, 1944, he acted in the highest tradition of the brotherhood of the sea in coming to the rescue of survivors after the sinking of HMS Warwick by a U-boat.”

A total of 87 crewmen from the HMS Warwick were saved by the Lady Luck and by nearby Royal Navy and Belgian vessels. Sadly, another 67 Royal Navy personnel died.

Mr Crisp’s bravery was recognised by his home town in a ceremony involving Waveney MP Peter Aldous, the chairman of Waveney District Council Peter Collecott, Lowestoft mayor June Ford, local historian and author John Holmes, representatives of the Heritage Workshop Centre and Mr Crisp’s family.

Mr Aldous presented the gallantry award to the sons of the late Lowestoft skipper, Roy and Colin Crisp, and said: “It really is a compelling story and it’s appropriate we are providing this fitting memorial, but rest assured we will continue on with the fight to get Mr Crisp the proper recognition.”

Mr Holmes said: “I felt it was important that skipper Victor Crisp was recognised by his town nearly 70 years after he carried out the fantastic rescue that saw many of the crew of the HMS Warwick saved.”

Speaking after the ceremony, Roy Crisp, 88, and brother Colin, 80, vowed to continue their campaign to get “medallic recognition” for their father, adding they were “extremely proud of the people of Lowestoft” for the honour.

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